Children who are psychologically controlled by their parents are more likely to have poor mental health, suggests new research.

The study, conducted by researchers at University College London, found that adults who had controlling parents were less likely to develop a sense of mental wellbeing.

The negative impact of controlling parents was compared to that of the death of a relative or close friend.

Two-thousand people born in 1946 in England, Scotland and Wales were questioned about their mental health and parental relationships during their adolescence, their 30s and 40s, and between the ages of 60 and 64.

Controlling parents restrict their children’s self-reliance, prevent them developing a strong self-identity, and stop them from learning how to handle conflict.

On the other side of the scale, the researchers’ claim that the most important factors in good mental health are parents’ care and responsiveness.

Parent-child relationships

Adults who were raised by considerate parents were found to be securely attached, enabling them to function better in future relationships.

The study also discovered that while care from mums and dads is equally significant in predicting the mental health of their child through to middle age, care from dads has a stronger association with mental wellbeing in later life.

Dr Mai Stafford, lead author of the study, said: “All parents are to a certain extent caring and to a certain extent controlling.

“It’s whether we feel our parents invaded our privacy or we feel we were well looked after.

“The more caring and the more understanding we are, the more we listen to our children and speak to them in a warm and friendly way.”

Anxiety disorders in children

Dr Claire Hill, a clinical psychologist who specialises in parenting and child anxiety at the University of Reading, added: “In some areas paternal care was more strongly associated with wellbeing than maternal care – the role of fathers should not be ignored when assessing psychological problems in children.

“Crucially the study suggests that parenting interventions should be aimed at both parents, and not just the primary caregiver, who is typically the mother. But while this is an important study, caveats need to be applied to the results.”

Source: BBC News